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August 30, 2016 1:08 pm

Senator Cory Booker: Time to Move Past Iran-Deal Dispute, Bolster US-Israel Ties

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Democratic Senator Corey Booker of New Jersey. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The time has come for the US and Israel to move on from the dispute over last year’s Iran nuclear agreement and work to bolster ties, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a prominent Democratic backer of the deal, told the Jewish Insider on Tuesday.

Booker, who recently returned from a trip to Israel with a bipartisan congressional delegation, said his support of the Iran deal, which drew strong criticism from some of his Jewish constituents and others in the pro-Israel community, stemmed from a “fierce allegiance to Israel, as well as to the security of the United States of America.”

“[F]or me, the looming threat was an Iranian nuclear attack, and we’ve removed that for the foreseeable short term. [Now] we’re focusing on what we need to focus on, which is Israel’s immediate security and the strong partnership between the United States and Israel,” Booker told the Jewish Insider. “For that, those conversations I have with pro-Israel people in Israel and the US, and in my meeting with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu, everyone believes — whether they supported the deal or not — that we now must look forward and continuously strengthen the bonds between Israel and the United States.”

Booker’s comments come as the US and Israel are finalizing a new 10-year memorandum of understanding on US military assistance to the Jewish state. Media reports have said both sides are hoping to complete a deal before the Obama administration leaves office in January.

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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a personal friend of Booker’s who has publicly feuded with the senator over the Iran deal, said in a statement on Tuesday, “Cory is dead wrong on Iran. He adds damaging insult to injury when he defends his support of a deal that will forever mar his public legacy…Cory knows the truth. The Iran nuclear agreement achieved none of its objectives and is an unmitigated disaster.”

Furthermore, Boteach said, Booker owes “the people of New Jersey an explanation as to why he continues to defend the Iran deal nightmare.”

The delegation with which Booker traveled to Israel included Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. “This is the first time in American history that two popularly elected African-Americans have been serving at the same time in the US Senate,” Booker said, referring to himself and Scott.

Booker said one of the “more moving” meetings the delegation took part in during the trip was with a group of Ethiopian-Jewish leaders.

“One of the reasons why we really wanted to connect with the Ethiopian community, as two Americans of African descent serving in the Senate, was to make an important connection with them and be able to discuss issues of race and culture, as well,” he said. “Number two, we definitely wanted to show the bipartisan support for Israel, as well as do things that we thought would be unique for the only two African-Americans in the Senate, including getting a chance to meet with diverse communities.”

Asked about the recent controversy, reported on by The Algemeiner, over anti-Israel components of the Black Lives Matter platform — in particular, the movement’s claim that the Jewish state is committing genocide against the Palestinians — Booker said:

First of all, from what I read — and I only read one article about it — it’s not the Black Lives Matter’s platform. It was the platform of an umbrella organization that has a number of Left organizations as a part of it. Number two, if you understand the Black Lives Matter movement, there’s no central leadership of the movement. This is an organic, grassroots movement all around our country… The main issues that you see, the commonality between activists all around the country, are trying to deal with the challenges in the criminal justice system, something that is very much central to my work…

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